A few days ago a lady said "my husband is not a real firefighter, he's only a volunteer" As a vol firefighter I was realy ticked! but chose to keep my mouth shut! lol what are some of your thoughts on this statment, and how would handel it if it were said to you?


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awsome , yea keeping mouth shut is the best thing to do but man i wud find that  hard


You get this from time to time from the public, who don't know the difference between being a professional and a volunteer firefighter. What you have to do is educate them, including this firefighter's wife by letting them that the only difference is that one is paid and the other isn't.  Yet they are both firefighters regardless. They both took an oath, they both took training, though some at different levels, they both have heart and serve their community with pride. God bless them all and watch over them and their charges.

Alvin Gonzalez

Snr. Dep. Chief

Assn. Aux-Vol Firefighters

West Lawrence,NY

I grew up with my dad in a vol. dept.  brother joined the same dept at age 16 w/ parental signoff, cousin joined same dept.  dad left it after 12 years due to family issues, cousin moved out of state and is a paid paramedic now, brother was hired by a paid dept. almost 6 years ago now.  I am the Vol. Fire Photographer for a PAID DEPT.  Let me tell you, I can see the service from both sides but as long as they all get the job done they are all the same (A FIREFIGHTER).  Who cares about title Paid or Vol.  Just my 2 cents worth.

I agree with everything that you said. I would never say the volunteers aren't real firemen.(well some aren't) However those that think they are the same couldn't be more wrong. Even certain paid departments are much different than others and certain volunteers are different than others. I've worked in a small suburb and now work for one of the busiest departments in the nations with over 2000 members. They are nothing alike in tactics, training or call volume. I knew some great firemen at my last department and they are great where they are but it would be a new world where I am now.

I don't disagree with the difference in ops at all.  Now let me take you out of the city to rural Wisconsin and tanker(yeah, yeah, I know tender) ops.  No hydrants, 5 to 10 mile responses, all water hauled to the scene, and yet saves are still made under those adverse conditions.   You see where you are good at what you do in the city you would be lost out here.  Two way street you know.

 Excuse me Don, Could you please expand on the last part of your statement. " You would be lost." Just wondering how Capcity,myself or any city fireman would be lost in a

rural area?

Sure, you guys like to tell us smaller city, or rural guys that we are "are nothing alike in tactics, training or call volume."  I may or may not agree with that entirely, but do tell me when the last time was you or capcity drafted from a foldatank?  Ran a multiple alarm fire where your only supply of water was hauled in by tenders?  Had to deal with a barn fire with either horses or cattle in it, or milling around in your way?  Fought a grass or corn field fore that stretched into dozens of acres?  Had to do an auto extrication a couple hundred yards out in a field away from your rescue rig?  You don't do any of that in your city environments.  So to take capcity's line "it would be a new world" and realize that we face a whole different set of circumstances in the rural that you can't even begin to relate to in a city environment.  Does it make us better than you?  In OUR world it does, just like in YOUR world you are better than us.  So tell me which one of us is a REAL Firefighter?  

The fire service has a brotherhood and sisterhood that is beyond any other organization. I have friends in paid, volunteer and combination departments and we all do the same thing and fire does not discriminate.




The fire departments in NYS are 90% volunteer and I would love to see what people would do if they had to wait 2 plus hours for a pd company to show up. The Volunteer service in most areas take the same training as the paid and some maybe even more. An example I'm a volunteer and I bet there are some paid firefighters that are not CPR, Weapons of Mass Destruction and ICS Instructor as I am.


The one difference is we do not get paid to train or fight fires, we still feel the same way when one of our brothers or sisters goes down whether it is in the line of duty or not. 


We all take pride and it doesn't matter whether the shout was from inside or out when we are called to duty we do our JOB.



As the alarm rings out,
There’s a sound of a distant shout.
In the dark sky there’s a glow,
As the fire and flames start to grow.

Fear is the feeling in the air,
As everyone is starting to care.
Where was that shout?
Was it from the inside or out?

The intensity of the fire grows,
And then nobody knows.
Where was the shout?
Was it inside or out?

As the smoke grows thick,
And we started to feel sick.
The result of the shout,
Thank God it was on the out.

By: Dale Barker 2006

Don, I think you're making a (number of) specious argument(s). 

What does hauling water to the scene have to do with how well rural firefighters would do in the city?  Or vice versa? Are there special techniques for fighting fire when your water supply comes from a fold-a-tank rather than onboard or hydrant supply?  Different kind of water?  Different kind of  fire suppression capabilities? Are you using 'heavy' water?

It's the tanker operator's job to get and bring water to the scene, isn't it?  So that would actually be a very separate job (and job description) from firefighter. And could that same operator do just as well as the chauffeur of a big city engine?

I find it hard to believe that a firefighter used to sitting on the knob wetting down a barn fire would be just as at home advancing the line up to the 7th floor.  On the other hand, the city guy would be bored sitting on the knob watching the barn burn down.  Oh...and shooing cows away.

I think the only "lost" that would occur to a city ff would be a directional one.  Clearly going from big (inner) city to rural would be a hell of a lot easier than the reverse.

I agree with jolly vollie as to what was probably the lady's intent.  No harm, no foul.  That being said, some (many?) vollies do seem to be hyper-sensitive on the issue of them being 'real firemen.'  What keeps popping up (discussion wise) in here is when a comment is made that there is no difference between a paid and a vollie other than the paycheck.  Clearly that is NOT true.  It, however, does NOT mean that a vollie is NOT a fireman, only that he is not one on the same level as most paid firemen are.

There's been MANY discussions in here on a variety of vollie topics and it's amazing how many vollies think that training for 2 or 3 hours, once a month is sufficient (and equal to the big city boys (and girls)).  Moreover, when discussions have come up about the need for additional training, NFPA requirements etc, MANY vollies speak up and complain about the already burdensome amount of training they have to do (once or twice a month).  Interestingly most seem to really look forward to that monthly business meeting and their dinners, fundraisers, parties etc.  And let's not forget some of the opinions on allowing alcohol IN the firehouse. 

But maybe this will make it clearer:

Active military service vs. National Guard

National Guard vs. Reservist

Navy vs. Marines (that one is for WP)

State Trooper vs. City cop

City Cop vs.Suburban Cop

Suburban Cop vs. Rural Cop/Sheriff vs. Constable

You're ALWAYS going to be in competition with someone and you're (most likely) always going to be better than some, worse than others.

Deal with it and get over it. 

Don't get mad, get better.


" deal with it and get over it. Don't get mad, get better"

That should have been said at the beginning of this post, in my opinion. Would have saved a lot of hurt egos.

However, while I'm here, I would just like give my opinion.

I am a volunteer firefighter, and have been for a few years, and I agree that there are differences in paid city firefighters versus volunteer rural firefighters. The biggest difference, besides the paycheck, is training and tactics. I'll be honest and say that I do good where I am now, and work to do better. However, put me in the city and it's a whole new ballgame. Like jolly volly said, I would have to sit back and ask what you needed me to do. But,really, it all comes down to experience, as mentioned before. As a volly, I can sit here and say that I could jump right in on a city dept. because I have read about the tactics, watched some videos and attended some seminars. But that doesn't mean I can actually do it. It takes experience to learn how to do it right. Some volunteer FF would like to think that firefighting is firefighting, and, well, it is...when you are comparing firefighting with rural to rural, or city to city. But unless you get experience in the other, then there will be differences between the two. And that goes both ways.

Firefighters are firefighters, they/we all know the operations of successfully putting out fires. It would take training and experience to say you are on the same firefightING level as one or the other.

In the end, we all signed up/showed up to be problem solvers of the neighborhood. It really does not matter if you are paid or volunteer. Like Jack said "don't get mad, get better". As long as you know how to do it in your area. And when/if someone says to you that you (volly) are not a "real" firefighter, so what? All that matters is that when the next time someone calls 911 with a problem, you show up and help. That's why we chose to do this, isn't it? And I, too, feel the same as jolly volly in that the lady meant no harm by her comment. Good for you, Kent, in keeping your cool. Just be the best firefighter you can be, either paid or volly, and help those in need when the time comes. 


Kent ,

 It was wise on one hand Not to speak your mind . However, you missed a good opportunity to educate the ignorant . I work as a "real" firefighter in a paid -volunteer  combination department, but I ALSO Volunteer as a "REAL" firefighter in a rural department . You know as well as I do that greater than 70% of America's Firefighters are Volunteer , and she needs to KNOW that . I would speak to her husband if you can , as soon as you can , to get him to give her the message that what he does is a real firefighters job .

 Al "Medicman" Westbrook




Read what I said to Jolly Vollie. 


Let me tell you what, you had better remove or apologize to the Guard and Reserve members you insulted.  Because they have done more than their share of fighting and dieing in the current wars as well as past ones.   

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